1996 Ford Explorer – Won’t Start Just Clicks

Reader Question: I have a 1996 Ford Explorer 4.0L Auto Trans with six cylinders. It will not start. Battery power is good.

I hear a click when I turn the key. No attempt to turn over, just a click.

Do you have any ideas?


Hi there Morgan,

First thing, turn on the headlights and make sure they are good and bright. With the headlights on, try to start the engine. If the headlights go out, you probably have a bad battery or a bad connection at the battery. If they battery dims when you turn the key, you probably have a bad starter motor.

You can sometime LIGHTLY tap on the starter under the passenger side of the vehicle with a block of wood AS someone holds the ignition key in the start position. This can jump-start a weak starter motor. Make sure the emergency brake is ON and the vehicle is in PARK!

If the headlights stay bright, and does not change as you turn the key, you might have a problem with the ignition switch, neutral safety switch or an alarm or wiring issue. You might want to try to start the engine in neutral just to see if that have any bearing on it.

Austin Davis

7 Comments on "1996 Ford Explorer – Won’t Start Just Clicks"

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  1. Lynn says:

    Hello my lights stay bright when I start it and the neutral thing doesn’t worl what should I do plz help

    • Austin says:

      I would make sure there is not an alarm or security feature that is activated, then I would check out the starter motor. The starter is located under the vehicle where the engine and transmission meet. Sometimes you can gently tap on the starter with a block of wood as someone holds the key in the start position. This can kick start weak starter motor.

  2. james says:

    my 1997 ford explorer wont start. Starter relay clicks once. New Battery. Hit the starter with wood/ hammer lightly. Still no start. Any questions on what to do next?

    • Austin says:

      9 times out of 10 it’s a bad starter. If you can test voltage at the starter ….or spend $98 and buy a rebuilt one and try it. If you have someone watch your headlights as you turn the key to start…if the headlights go out you have a bad battery connection most likely. If the lights dim down you most likely have a bad starter, if the lights stay the same you might have a neutral safety switch or ignition switch type of problem

  3. luke says:

    wow.. my 94 ford explorer was doing the same clicking thing.. when i went out to try turning the key with the headlights on it started it.. no joke must be a relay.. thanks for the info

  4. Ben says:

    I had the same problem with my 93 explorer, I thought I knew all the tricks, but whacking the starter with a block of wood was a new one guess what… it worked! Thanks for saving me a trip to the mechanic!!

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